Last week, the top story around town was the recently announced sale of Simpson Lumber to California-based Sierra Pacific Industries. Timber has been the bread-and-butter of our regional economy for more than a century, employing generations of Washingtonians and building our expanding nation. The Simpson family has invested in our community for the past 125 years, and I am grateful for their contribution.
Those of us in Mason County, and many others across timber-rich Washington, are closely connected to our logging heritage. Whether it’s cheering on the Highclimbers, celebrating Forest Festival, or taking pride in a larger-than-life Paul Bunyan parading down Railroad Avenue, forestry is part of the fabric of our community. I believe we will carry these proud traditions well into the future.
Many, though, are calling the Simpson sale the “nail in the coffin” for Shelton and Mason County. And while job losses are difficult to absorb with Mason County’s unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent, I have an unwavering belief in the people of this community. With Sierra Pacific’s commitment to build a new state-of-the-art mill on Shelton’s waterfront by 2017, we have an opportunity to revitalize the city and usher in a new era of timber production and economic growth.
We should also take this opportunity to invest in a diverse economy that will meet the needs of generations to come. This begins in the Legislature with fully funding education and providing career and technical education opportunities for students. Additionally, we must enact B&O tax reforms, including those I proposed earlier this year, to simplify and modernize a tax code that is a barrier to economic growth.
Locally, we must attract new businesses to Mason County and develop planning codes that are fair, flexible and allow for competition in the marketplace.
Most importantly, we must come together as a community to support those affected during this time of transition. I am committed to working with all parties to ensure they are connected to critical resources and are able to meet their obligations in the weeks and months to come.
We must not miss this opportunity to strengthen and diversify our economy. With the right investments, I am confident Mason County’s best days are ahead.
Together we can build a bright future for Mason County.